The Science Debate

Scientific American invited both Obama and Romney to answer a set of questions on the topic of science.

After looking at the article with each candidate’s responses, I thought it would be interesting to parse it for actual content.

It does show a clear difference in many policies, mainly Obama is in favor of regulations and federal programs, Romney would prefer to remove regulations and move towards privatization.

Here’s my summary/paraphrasing of what they had to say, trying to remove as much fluff and windbaggery as possible.

1. What policies will best ensure that America remains a world leader in innovation?

Obama: Double funding for key research agencies, prepare [hire? train?] 100,000 math and science teachers in the next 10 years.

Romney: lower corporate taxes, reform job retraining programs, reduce regulation, enforce IP laws.

2. What is your policy on global climate change?

Obama: It is a big problem. Invest in clean energy, limit emissions, reduce dependence on oil.

Romney: There remains a lack of scientific consensus on severity.  Fund research of lower emission technologies.  Reduce regulations on emissions.

3. What priority would you give to investment in research in your upcoming budgets?

Obama: My Recovery Act invests heavily in research.  Make the R&D tax cuts permanent.

Romney: Direct more federal funding at the private sector. Streamline FDA approval. Remove excise tax on medical device companies.

4. How should we protect against global pandemics and/or deliberate biological attacks?

Obama: Strengthen our systems of public health. Work with the private sector to assess potential vulnerabilities.  Work with our international partners.

Romney: Invest in public health monitoring systems. Fund pathogen research to make countermeasures. Reduce taxes and regulation.

5. Why has America fallen behind in math and science education, what can be done to fix it?

Obama: Prepare 100,000 math and science teachers in the next 10 years, through national STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Master Teacher Corps.

Romney: More spending hasn’t produced results and teacher’s unions are damaging to education.  The solution is education reform: charter schools, standardized testing, allow funding for a student to follow them school to school [vouchers?], privatization of student loans.

6. What policies would you support to meet the demand for energy while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future?

Obama: Invest in clean energy such as wind, solar, clean coal, and natural gas. Adopt the Clean Energy Standard to move to 80% clean energy by 2035.  Safe, responsible development of natural gas.

Romney: Allow states to drill for oil including federal land. Allow more offshore drilling. Partner with Canada and Mexico to set up pipelines. Fund new oil surveys. Transparent and fair permits and regulations. Private-sector led development of new energy technology.

7. What steps would you take to ensure the health, safety and productivity of America’s food supply?

Obama: More FDA funding. Promote organic food. Limit livestock antibiotics.

Romney: Move to a more collaborative model where FDA works with industry to establish testing procedures.

8. What steps, if any, should the federal government take to secure clean, abundant fresh water for all Americans?

Obama: My national clean water framework to improve water quality. Fund water conservation programs.

Romney: Reform regulations and laws to be more collaborative with industry. Incentives, market-based programs, cooperative conservation.

9. What role, if any, should the federal government play in managing the Internet?

Obama: Protect IP, strengthen cyber-security, without reducing freedom of expression.

Romney: Government should not manage the Internet. Remove FCC Net Neutrality and other regulations.

10. What role should the federal government play to protect the environmental health and economic vitality of the oceans?

Obama: My National Ocean Policy, fund Gulf Coast, Great Lakes, and Everglades restoration.

Romney: Fund scientific studies, collaborate with fisheries to reform regulations.

11. How will you ensure that policy is fully informed by the best available scientific and technical information?

Obama: Increase transparency, focus on facts not ideology.

Romney: Increase transparency, avoid manipulation of science for political gain. Establish regulatory cap so that agencies spend as much time removing or refining regulations as they spend adding new ones.

12. What should America’s space exploration and utilization goals be in the 21st century and what steps should the government take to help achieve them?

Obama: Send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s. Operate the Space Station until at least 2020. Fund NASA.

Romney: Refocus NASA, not by adding funding but by setting clear goals. Partner internationally. Develop robust national space security program with space weaponry to protect our space capabilities.  Ease trade restrictions on exporting US space technology.

13. Supply shortages of natural resources affect economic growth, quality of life, and national security; for example China currently produces 97% of rare earth elements needed for advanced electronics. What steps should the federal government take to ensure the quality and availability of critical natural resources?

Obama: Develop alternatives to rare materials. Restrict China’s export of rare materials. Promote US-based recycling to reclaim rare materials.

Romney: Deregulation. Energy independence through more drilling and faster processing of permits.

14. What actions would you support to enforce vaccinations in the interest of public health, and in what circumstances should exemptions be allowed?

Obama: Affordable Care Act makes routine immunizations available for no co-pay or deductible.

Romney: More vaccine manufacturing. More Americans should take steps to get vaccinations. Decrease taxes and regulations to drive medical innovation.